Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why Do Qatari Men Touch Noses?

Watch this funny video from Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani for the answer:
I know, I know - I promised:  a blog every Friday, no matter what.  But today…I'm just too tired.  After a (busy, but fun) week of 9-hour and an 11-hour shifts with students at Weill Cornell Medical College.  A week of early mornings, hurried shopping, midnight laundry.
A week of language classes missed.
A week of sunshine lost.
I'm befuddled in English, confused in Arabic, mixed up in Khaleeji, Masri, FusHa.
There are the usual distractions muddling my horizon - half marathon training after a long setback.  Missing family, faraway car troubles, taxes due, FAFSAs to complete…five babies I haven't seen in way. too. long.
And new distractions like Bob's guys-go-golf trip to ABU DHABI this weekend (clicker to myself! Snacks and sweatpants in front of the tv!) and deciding if I should run tomorrow's inaugural "Doha Marathon" along the Corniche - just advertised in yesterday's paper.
If I were blogging today I might write about stuff in the news…for example how all women (teachers, administrators, support staff) were suddenly banned from working in Independent Boys' Schools (ie, Qatari public schools). "For fear that (young boys) may start imitating their behavior or mannerisms."  (Doha News Link)
Or about Sheikha Moza's nanny training school where "the goal of the academy (is to) protect children from other cultures that diffuse into the society through Asian nannies in particular." (Doha News Link)

Or maybe I'd tell you about red suburbans and motorcycles and drivers with guns who park in the middle of roundabouts, blocking/clogging roads, so whomever-high-up can get from here to there unimpeded.  And how it used to be interesting to watch the long line of black cars stream past and wonder, who-might-that-be?  But now when I see those speeding flashes of red…I whip the car around and consider how wide a circle I'll have to make to avoid the inevitable traffic backup. 
unrelated palm trees pic
Nope, I'm just not up to blogging today. Instead I'm gonna watch another funny video, drink some coffee and…wait for the sun.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cold and Wet in Doha

One day,  it rained.

Not just  a drizzle, not just for an hour.  All. Day. Long.  The sky heavy with low, fat clouds.  Puddle making, skin drenching, chill producing, wet.  Heaven opened flood gates wet.  Tears on my beach wet.
West Bay one foggy, rainy day
No stormwater system meant pool sized puddles filled streets.  Shoes, socks, jeans, underwear soaked, hair plastered to heads.
And still the rain came down and down and down.
Foreigners cowered inside under blankets but locals took to the streets.  Walkways were packed with happy groups of men and women in traditional dress, carrying umbrellas, wearing coats.
In Arabic class, Qatari Teacher's teenage niece texted her.  "Isn't the weather amazing?"
Teacher smiled.  "We prayed for it," she said.  "Water is the essence of life."
I shook my head and my life dripped to the floor.
Perspective is everything.
You see, when "normal" temperatures often exceed 115F - cold and wet isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Winter in Doha is cool temperatures (mornings as whoa-low as 60F!), rare drops of rain, chill wind with spitting, stinging sand.
Security guards in heavy winter coats, ski gloves and thick pants shivering through 12-hour stand-in-one-place shifts. Workers in stocking caps and boots sweeping walkways.
Sand in teeth during a last time jog with run-everyday-no-matter-what daughter.
Long stretches without a Beach Day.  Brown roots showing in fading sun-bleached hair.
Space heaters (no central heat in the desert), blankets, leggings, shoes instead of sandals.  Whole rooms constructed of tile means it's colder inside than outside.
But then...Doha Winter is also planting, fertilizing, digging, weeding, watering.  Happy flowers.
Desert camps, falcon events, dune bashing, truffle hunting.  Crowds running the Corniche until 10am.  Beach sun between 10am-2pm.
winter camps under a blue desert sky
Brown dish-dashas.
And one day, at least…rain.
rainy afternoon at The Pearl

Friday, January 11, 2013

Doha to Dubai and Back Again

Dubai is to Doha what "going to the lake" is to Kansas City (Missouri, USA) - if you add a keg and maybe a few dancing girls.  Think: Worlds of Fun, Disneyland, Six Flags…all mixed up with a hefty helping of Las Vegas.  More amusement park than cultural experience.  More play than pray.
The call to prayer happens in Dubai, but the city isn't centered around it.  And, while it takes effort to find someone who speaks Arabic in Doha - (it appears that) no one speaks Arabic in Dubai. 
Still.  There are only two ways out of Qatar: drive through Saudi Arabia, a complicated, rule-rich endeavor (especially if you're travelling with a woman) or fly.  Dubai is close (45 minute flight).  Dubai is fun.  Dubai has the Burj Khaleefa:
Tallest building in the world, from the top
And the weekend we were there, Dubai had these two:
Love love love love them
Since it was my birthday, my mom, dad and sister, Kay, came along (via card):
Mom and Dad and Kay at the top of the Burj Khaleefa
Like Qatar, Dubai was once all about fishing and pearling.  Unlike Qatar, Dubai was already a bustling trade and tourist hotspot (thanks to terms like "tax free port") by the time oil was discovered in 1966 - nearly 30 years after the Peninsula's bonanza.
The core of (Dubai's leader, Sheikh) Maktoum's policies is economic freedom and the no-holds-barred promotion of Dubai, which makes the city a very fun place. By the mid-1990s, the Dubai Desert Classic had become a well-established stop on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tour. World-class tennis tournaments, boat and horse races, desert rallies and one of the largest air shows in the world attract millions of visitors to the city. Other high profile events, such as the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises, bring hordes of tourists into town. Tourism matches trade and oil in importance to the emirate's economy.  (
The Dubai Shopping Festival was in full swing during our visit to the Emirate.  This is what that looked like:
every mall and other-which-where during our stay
We rode the Big Red Bus, toured the aquarium at Atlantis, saw beaches, parks, the tallest this and the biggest that.  Dubai's subway metro meant a holiday from Doha's crazy-making traffic.  Plus there were souks.  And penguins
Kimber and friend
We counted shark's teeth in an underwater tunnel
freaky stuff at the Dubai Mall
ferried across Dubai Creek in a wooden boat
abra ride only 1dh
ooed and ahhed at the Wafi Mall Egypt-themed light show, ate pizza, drank wine, got lost, stayed out late and made much merry.
Kimber, Katie, Bob at the top of the Burj Khaleefa
All while we MISSED CHRIS, KILLIAN and KRISSY - who celebrated her third birthday the same day as Nonnie (that's me).  And who all are so far, far away.
talking to Nonnie via Skype
I dare you to say this pic doesn't tug at your heartstrings (sniff)
I hear Oman is also a quick flight from Doha - and that they maybe speak their own language there (an Arabic dialect).  How unique!  We're thinking to visit.
But first…and next…home.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tourist Qatar: Where We've Been

Katie and Kimber in Doha, UPDATE:

Beach Beach Beach Beach
Yeah, we love The Beach.  But we've been one or two other places, done one or two other things.  For example:
jogged around tanks on National Day, donned abayas and sheylas, drove into the desert, shopped Souq Waqif, Carrefour, Spinneys
okay these last two are grocery and stuff stores, but since things spoil so fast here (no preservatives) we have to go ALL THE TIME and these shops are interesting and different and therefore are counted as tourist-ish someplaces
run the Corniche, stepped behind the 10-foot walls and through the steel gates of the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, hung at The Pearl
above the boardwalk, among the yachts, upscale shopping, restaurants and near the merry go round…we live, jog and tourist The Pearl daily
done City Center/Landmark/Villagio/Al Khor: Malls… Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Masjid and Katara: Mosques; Fanar, Inland Sea, Doha Bay Dhow ride, Museum of Islamic Arts and park, Singing Dunes
Katie scales the dunes
visited Al Khor, hiked Purple Island, missed the run but caught the camels at the Camel Races, poked around Film City
real-ish desert village set created for a Qatari tv show -
you need gps to find it
feted New Year's Eve at Souq Waqif
dinner at the souq
searched for and found Al Mazrouh Yard where 22 Doha farms reputedly sell locally grown fruits and vegetables
no produce, but this scarecrow-like dude was dressed for salty-soil-farm work
pet a falcon
Raw chicken off the bone: yummmmmmmm
supped at Turkey Central, Zaatar w/ Zeit, Fuddruckers, Chili's, Magic Corn, Haagen Dasz… attended Swalif, leaped pools of standing water during a freakish day-long rainstorm, baked brownies, grilled chicken, boiled rice, made homemade hummus, rolled down a hill at Islamic Museum Park, got pants full-a sand while dunes rumbled beneath us…hung with some really fun peeps
Mshiereb Madness BMD style
And there's still time for more!  Like, for example, this weekend?  DUBAI.
We'll keep you posted...